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Weber State honoring alumni, others as part of homecoming week

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 6, 2022

Photos supplied, Weber State University

This combination photo shows the various honorees to be recognized Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, as part of WSU Salutes, a component of Weber State's homecoming week activities. Clockwise from upper left are Kathi and Dave Thomas, Bill and Pat Child, Todd Rose, Linda Oda, Jackie Thompson, Steve Ballard and, in the center, Cristina Ortega.

OGDEN — It’s homecoming week at Weber State University — time to “Make Ogden Purple,” as the university puts it, mark the university’s wide-ranging contributions and light the “W,” the oversized letter on the side of the mountain above the college campus.

It’s also time to honor a few of the many alumni whose accomplishments underscore the impact the university can have on individuals and the broader community. This year’s WSU Salutes honorees include an advertising professional, a restaurateur, an educator, a judge and more.

The honorees “represent the best of Weber State University. Their inspiring stories demonstrate the wide-ranging impact of a Weber State education,” said university President Brad Mortensen.

They’ll be formally honored at a ceremony on Friday at the Browning Center’s Allred Theater. Meantime, here’s a little bit about the award recipients:

Emeriti Homecoming Royalty: Husband and wife duo David and Kathleen Thomas garner recognition in the category meant to honor those who graduated at least 40 years earlier. David graduated in 1977 and his wife got her degree a year later.

David worked in advertising, founding his own ad firm in 1982 and selling it seven years later, though staying on as president and chief executive officer of varied western U.S. regional offices of the firm. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House in 2002 then founded ThomasARTS, a marketing and communications firm.

“His career highlights include branding the 2002 Winter Olympics and collaborating with dozens of local and national brands,” the university said in a press release.

Kathleen founded Mrs. T’s preschool in Farmington, “which became one of the most beloved and respected preschools in Davis County,” the university said.

Distinguished service: Steve Ballard, the honoree, owns and operates two Ogden restaurants, Sonora Grill and Thai Curry Kitchen, as well as Ogden Produce Company, an indoor hydroponic farm. The award is meant for a “non-alumnus” of Weber State for their service.

Ballard partnered with Weber State in 2013 to create an annual fundraiser to benefit the Oportunidad Scholarship Fund. “The scholarship promotes educational opportunities for students who do not qualify for federal aid and is intended to remove financial barriers for low-income or immigrants who dream of becoming the first in their family to earn a college degree,” the university said.

Thus far, the program, Dining for Dollars, has generated $193,000 for the fund, providing scholarships to more than 50 students.

Lewis W. Shurtliff Award: Jacqueline Thompson, who received a master’s degree in 1997 from Weber State, gets the recognition for her work in education, the focus of the Shurtliff award.

Thompson, who went on to get a doctorate from Utah State, worked for the Davis School District from 2000 to 2017. She returned for another stint starting last year and continuing to last spring to assist the district after the U.S. Department of Justice found “persistent failures” in its handling of race matters.

“Jackie Thompson’s advocacy of safe, supportive educational environments for students of all ethnicities is legendary in Utah,” the university said. “The groundbreaking policies she championed as Davis School District’s first African-American assistant superintendent provided the foundation on which to build a deeper appreciation for equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Distinguished alumna: Cristina Ortega, who received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Weber State in 1998, gets the honor.

She received a law degree from the University of Utah and served as a prosecutor in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the Davis County Attorney’s Office. She also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Utah before her appointment in 2021 as judge in the 2nd District Court, which serves Weber, Davis and Morgan counties.

“Cristina is very active in her community with a keen focus on higher education,” said the university.

Distinguished alumnus: Todd Rose, who received his bachelor’s degree from Weber State in 2000, gets the honor.

He received a doctorate from Harvard University in 2007 and thereafter became a professor in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “Currently, Todd is the president of the Boston-based think tank Populace, as well as the author of three bestselling books,” said the university.

He overcame what he described as tempered expectations about his future thanks to the prodding of three Weber State psychology professors “who mentored and believed in him, even when he didn’t fully believe in himself,” said the university.

Emeriti Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award: Linda Inouye Oda, who received her bachelor’s degree from Weber State in 1967, gets the award.

She was a reading specialist and elementary school principal before joining the Weber State faculty, where she helped the Davis School District develop its Quality Teaching Program and developed educational materials focused on World War II internment camps. Along the way, she received a doctorate from Brigham Young University.

“Her Japanese-American family made a life in Utah not by choice, but out of necessity after fleeing Los Angeles to escape internment during World War II,” the university said.

She directed the Office of Asian Affairs under Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and led many efforts at Weber State to improve curriculum for minority children. She still volunteers with the university.

WSU President’s Award: William Child, recipient of an associate degree in 1951, and his wife, Patricia Child, are to be honored.

“The rags-to-riches story of Bill Child is as improbable as it is inspiring,” said the university.

Child started out as a teacher, but after the death in 1954 of the father of his first wife, Darline Willey, he took over his late father-in-law’s struggling furniture store, growing it into Utah’s largest furniture and appliance chain, R.C. Willey. Darline died tragically in 1965 of a rare medical condition and Child later married Patricia.

“The ‘tiny store’ that Bill took over in 1954 now boasts more than $1 billion in annual sales. It is a testament to the ideals of hard work, integrity and endurance,” said the university.

Berkshire Hathaway acquired R.C. Willey in 1995 and Child stayed on as chief executive officer of the furniture company until retiring in 2002. He and his wife Pat support numerous charitable groups and educational programs.

Numerous other activities are scheduled to mark homecoming week, including a diversity conference on Thursday and Friday. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark completion of the Noorda Engineering, Applied Science and Technology building is set for Friday while the Weber State football team will play Eastern Washington on Saturday, the homecoming game.


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